Obesity: Follow the Money

Topics: Aging and Costs of Aging, Obesity and Weight Loss, Wellness and Health
Cost per calorie graphic from Dr John La Puma


Adult obesity has nearly doubled in the U.S. in 16 years. Obesity-related quality of life has been nearly cut in half (using QALYs, which Eddie Lawlor and I showed had ethical challenges and predicted the health care financing problems we’re having now).

And following the money gives a direct answer to this obesity problem. (see graphics, courtesy of wisegeek.com). Candy, pasta and bread are dirt cheap; fruits, veggies and nuts are not.

Over the past four years, the supermarket price of the most nutrient-dense (read: most nutritious, in a good way) foods increased 29.2 percent.  Those least nutrient-dense rose by 16.1 percent. Dr Dresnowski has been on this from early on.

In other words, healthy food– fewer calories, more nutrition– is more expensive than junk food– more calories, less nutrition. Could the right financial incentives to producers and shoppers help?